A Year On: From One Deep End To Another, These Are The Skills I Needed

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For many athletes the transition from the sporting arena to corporate corridors can be daunting if not overwhelming. The change in pace, in demands, in familiarity can prove to be a significant hurdle to scale and these changes are, in some capacity or another, unavoidable.

Although the shifts in environments possess their fair share of challenges, sport and the characteristics developed within can be incredible useful in overcoming these challenges. Adaptability, resilience, discipline, goal-setting: all of these traits are forged through sport but are applied to multiple scenarios, many of which are non-sporting. Most notably the workplace, an environment although rarely resembling that of a basketball court or ski slope, is often the setting in which these traits can flourish. 

 

We recently spoke with add-victor alumni, Christine Pedersen, former six-time Norwegian swimming champion, as she enters her second year at a leading European Bank. Specifically, we were keen to hear how she found the overall transition, where she struggled, what she called upon from her sports to progress and how certain characteristics such as competitiveness and drive never truly disappear.

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What was the initial difference you noticed and what did you find most surprising about the change in careers?

Immediately I noticed how little I was physically exerting myself! You certainly feel the effect of NOT working out four-hours a day. But what counterbalanced that was a considerable leap in mental demand, as I was thinking and analysing and juggling multiple tasks far more than I ever did previously.

What I found most surprising was how difficult it was to rid of habits developed through sport. For instance, building routines, analysing my own performance on a daily basis, wanting to win—the only difference was that instead of a swimming pool I was in an office.

But those habits enabled me to find my feet quickly, connect with my managers through asking for feedback, and to evolve within the role as I was constantly pushing to be better.

 

What did you find the most difficult?

Learning a new set of tasks and information, especially as I was so familiar and comfortable with school and swimming—they were second nature. Although I feel I’ve adapted well to it all, there were certainly some growing pains.

It was all anew, and I was so used to being capable and confident in what I was doing, so initially that took some adjustment. Being patient and trusting in my colleagues/mentors was the key focus to working through those first few months.

And something else that was somewhat hard was not constantly having an output for my competitive drive. When you train every day you also compete against your teammates and ultimately yourself. Not having a daily setting that was obvious as to a winner and loser was an unfamiliar I soon realised was relatively unique to sports settings!

Christine & Teammates Prepare for National Relay
Christine & Teammates Prepare for National Relay
Christine Leaps into Her Next Challenge
Christine Leaps into Her Next Challenge

What skills developed through sport have you employed in the workplace?

I think a main one is being self-starting. Which is a bit of a buzz word but for me it essentially means taking initiative. Being so engaged in the work and historically taking a lot of responsibility over my own success within sport means that I feel more in tune with where I fit within the team’s operations.

In other words, I want to be as involved as I can be and prove myself dependable, which, I believe, can only be done by knowing the big picture and recognising where you can add value within.

Another is leadership. Sport gave me the opportunity to be a captain, to be a main figure in my team, which included younger or less experienced swimmers. I feel, therefore, that that exposure and responsibility has stuck; if you take account for your standards of work and behaviour, people often follow.

 

When did you realise some of your experiences within sport made you well equipped to the corporate lifestyle?

I would say when things properly started to click, after three months or so, and I felt acclimatised to the office, the people I was interacting with, and the work itself. I then started to realise that certain skills developed through sport were actually very useful within the corporate space.

Resilience being a key one. At least within my role; there is a lot of work that goes in that might not always be accepted or successful, which can be slightly demoralising but with sport you experience numerous setbacks, which you learn to bounce back and grow from. I took this mentality into my new job and have benefited from being able to push through the small losses.

 

What advice would you give to other fellow athletes who have finished their studies and are looking to make the transition into a full-time career?

I would say trust your instincts. You’ve sharpened them for years in very unique environments. They will serve you well in the workplace.

I would also encourage athletes to reflect on the skills they have taken from sport, and how they have influenced their identity, especially in recognising how they can be incorporated into corporate arenas.

For me I knew I had some key characteristics but hadn’t properly considered how to effectively channel them into something non-sport, so the time I spent analysing what they actually were was really helpful!

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